In last week’s Gospel Jesus told a “fish story” and in today’s Gospel Jesus tells a “camel story.” Today’s Gospel is the story of a camel trying to pass through the eye of a needle. A sort of strange story or example. Some scholars have suggested that the needle stands for a city gate. The camel would still have to bend down in order to enter. Jesus tells his disciples: “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”
There was a theological view in Jesus’ day that the rich were especially favored or blessed by God. Their riches were proof that they were good and blessed by God. This theological view is like the false Gospel of Prosperity that some Christians preach today. While Jesus rejects this view his disciples, influenced by this view that the rich are especially favored by God, ask the despairing question, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus replies: “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”
The key point of Jesus’ teaching is that we, rich or poor, do not and cannot save ourselves. God alone offers us the gift of salvation and the grace of forgiveness. We can accept or reject this gift but we do not and cannot earn it.
God gives us this gift of passing through the narrow gate or through the eye of the needle. The way through this eye of the needle is through Jesus who is the way to God: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus shows us the way to salvation as he welcomes outcasts, lepers, and sinners. Jesus shows us the way by putting God’s will before all. This way is the way through the eye of the needle.
Image: “Camel Passing Through the Eye of a Needle at Museo Jumex” by nan palmero is licensed under CC BY 2.0.